Thanks to Solana Beach churchgoers, Christmas just got merrier for Just In Time for Foster Youth.
Christmas came Dec. 13 when volunteers gave presents to 25 transitioning foster youth, ages 18-26. Since 2012, Solana Beach Presbyterian Church has sponsored 25 youth every holiday season, checking off their wish lists and filling their stockings with gift cards and other small surprises.
“I had a good family growing up, and I see, with my two daughters, the importance of a good family,” said Gretchen Morgan of Del Mar. She heads the church’s Foster Youth Ministry, which organizes the holiday drive. “It just breaks my heart when kids don’t have what our kids have or what I had.”
Solana Beach Presbyterian Church’s Foster Youth Ministry was established seven years ago by a small group of churchgoers with a passion for foster youth. At the time, church members were already helping Just In Time for Foster Youth, a San Diego nonprofit that provides resources and support to young adults aging out of the foster care system, during the church’s Community Serve Day.
“Our focus is to support North County foster families and kids,” said Encinitas resident Claudia Bell, one of the ministry’s founding members. “It’s a huge need, and Just in Time really fills that gap. I don’t think there are very many programs in the United States like Just in Time.”
The Foster Youth Ministry started off hosting an annual Christmas party for 100 foster children. Besides the party, the ministry now also sponsors Just In Time youth.
In November, the ministry — a seven-member team with an 80-member email list — decorates two Christmas trees at the church with stars, each listing a wish for 100 foster children and 25 Just in Time for Foster Youth. Members of the church can choose one or more stars from the trees and donate the corresponding new and unwrapped gifts.
“These are kids whose families never met their needs,” said Lorna Rammon, a retired nurse who lives in San Marcos.
“Now they’re in foster homes where their needs are met,” added Bell, who has been a social worker for almost 27 years. “Usually they get good stuff for Christmas, but a lot of times it’s not the thing they ask for. It’s our desire to support foster parents. We value what they’re doing, and we want to recognize that. As part of that, we want to help them get the gifts for their kids, so it’s not such a financial burden.”
In addition to making holiday wishes come true for 125 foster children and transitioning foster youth, the ministry also supports Just In Time’s My First Home program, transforming empty apartments into safe, comfortable homes for the young people, who must leave foster care at age 18.
Now through Jan. 15, the nonprofit is holding its annual “My First Home for the Holidays” campaign, hoping to raise more than $125,000 in cash, gift cards and in-kind donations of new household items such as pots and pans, small kitchen appliances, lamps and bedding.
“We want to let them know that there are people in the community that care,” Bell said.
For information about Solana Beach Presbyterian Church’s Foster Youth Ministry, visit fosteryouthministrysbpc.com or contact Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Just in Time for Foster Youth or to donate to the campaign, visit www.jitfosteryouth.org.